Reclaiming the purpose and function of traditional landscaping, Jeremy Lekich and the team at Nashville Foodscapes are helping Nashvillians adorn their yards with beautiful, nutritious and edible plants.
It’s Saturday and you’re scrambling to check off that to-do list. You mow the lawn, pull the weeds, water your garden and then run out to the market to get food for the week. But what if you could consolidate those tasks by growing fresh and delicious food right in your own backyard? And we’re not just talking about keeping a garden or a raised bed, though those are wonderfully helpful as well.
Nashville native and permaculture guru Jeremy Lekich and the rest of the team at Nashville Foodscapes are teaching people how to incorporate edible foods like lettuces, herbs, fruits and vegetables into their everyday landscaping. And people are quickly catching on. Here, Lekich talks to Magazines.com about foodscaping, how to get started and why he sees it as such a vital next step.
For those who aren’t familiar with foodscaping, could you describe a bit about the idea behind it and how it plays into a more holistic approach to landscaping and gardening?
Foodscaping is landscaping our yards, lawns and open areas in an attractive, low-maintenance and poison-free way that provides food and beauty in one; a way to satisfy both our eyes and taste buds at the same time. It integrates landscaping and gardening into a process and system that is fertile, abundant, low-maintenance and fun. Foodscaping allows food to be grown in a way that is convenient and practical for most people’s lives, while satisfying the aesthetic desire too.
This isn’t just a hobby for you. You have years of experience, degrees and internships that have led you to come back to your native Nashville to do foodscaping. Tell me a little about your past experiences and what made you come back to Nashville.
I became fascinated with foodscaping in western North Carolina. While at college there, I spent my years studying the concepts and design patterns of foodscaping, while at the same time receiving hands-on experience in a diverse foodscape. It was great to study the theory for half the day and get my hands dirty putting those theories into practice for the other half. After I graduated, I realized that Nashville has way fewer foodscapers (if any) than western North Carolina. I also felt that I could be more successful in an area that I grew up in and knew so well. It feels good to be doing what I am doing and to be able to say I grew up here.
If I’m just starting to think about foodscaping in my own yard, what questions should I consider before moving forward?
What foods do I like to eat? Which foods do I find are the most expensive to purchase and are most difficult to obtain? How much time and money do I feel I can invest into creating a foodscape? Am I ready to have lots of fun and learn new things every day?
What’s a good first step for me to take if I’m not sure I can maintain an entire yard of fruits and vegetables?
Start with one or two fruit trees/shrubs. Start with a couple herbs. Pot a few lettuce plants or a tomato. Once you start growing a little bit of food, it is usually hard not to want to grow more. Also, read some books on ecological food production or edible landscaping, also known as permaculture or forest gardening.
What is the maintenance like for someone who decides to take the foodscaping route?
Depends on the landscape and design. For the most part, the first 3 to 10 years can be a significant bit of work and maintenance, and usually education too. But after that initial period of high work input, a well-designed foodscape should take care of itself, producing food and beauty with little input. Of course, if someone is less interested in that initial phase of high work input, a call can be made to Nashville Foodscapes. Also, the initial phase can be spread out over a longer period of time so that the work seems very minimal.
Why do you encourage people to adopt this new mindset when it comes to their yards and their food?
If you are going to spend time, money, attention on your yard, then why not have it produce more than just aesthetic appeal? Additionally, food plants are just as beautiful (or more) than the most popular ornamental plants sold on the market.
As for food, most food sold these days is void of nutrition and flavor. This is not only unhealthy but unsatisfying too. If we can integrate food production into our daily lives by planting food plants in our yards, we find that the health benefits are outstanding and evident due to the high nutritional value in our food. Just as important is the satisfaction that the food tastes wonderful and we had an active part in the growing of it.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Foodscaping takes into consideration the ecological processes and patterns found in nature and replicates them. A forest takes care of itself. By replicating those forest patterns, we can also create a landscape that takes care of itself, with the added benefit of producing tasty, nourishing foods.